Delta Airlines has continued its Windows device journey, announcing that it will provide Microsoft Surface 2 tablets to its 11,000 pilots worldwide.
The news follows an announcement in August that Delta would deploy Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 8 smartphones to 19,000 flight attendants for on-board purchases.
Delta said it hopes to make all of its cockpits paperless by the end of 2014, with pilots using the Surface devices to digitally access charts, checklists and reference documents using the Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro app. The airline will begin deploying Surface 2 devices to Boeing 757 and 767 pilots later this year.
Delta expects the tablet deployment to save $13 million per year in fuel and associated costs because it will remove the need to carry 17 kilogram flight bags on the aircraft. This will deliver an annual fuel usage saving of 4.5 million litres, or 11.8 million kilograms in carbon emissions. The tablet rollout is also expected to cut the airline's yearly paper usage by 7.5 million sheets.
The tablets are Windows RT 8.1 versions of Microsoft's Surface line, which means they run on ARM processors and have longer battery life than the Intel Haswell-equipped Surface Pro 2. The RT devices do not run legacy Windows apps.
"This intuitive device puts key information at their fingertips right when they need it," said Delta senior vice president, Steve Dickson. "By eliminating paper, we'll reduce clutter and minimise time spent looking for flight information allowing our pilots the opportunity for greater situational awareness in the air and on the ground."
Going digital is part of a broader modernisation initiative at Delta, Dickson said.
"With these improvements, we're able to reduce the airline's environmental impact while providing a great deal of flexibility to continue to add mobile technology solutions into our flying operations."
Qantas last year announced a similar initiative to reduce environmental impact by giving tablets to pilots, but the big Australian airline chose to deploy Apple iPads.
Microsoft announced its new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets late last month, about one year after the launch of the original Surface RT and Surface Pro. Microsoft has had trouble selling the original Surface tablets and analysts say enterprise adoption of Surface has been low in Australia.
While business adoption of Microsoft mobile devices has been slow, the company has the advantage of already being in front of CIOs' eyes in other areas and Windows remains the dominant business PC operating system, Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda said in a recent interview.
Microsoft has "existing relationships with enterprises [and] it's a very competitive company that doesn't take no for answer," he said.
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